Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, his deputy RR Patil and the Governor will now travel faster. The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the purchase of a Rs 57.50-crore business-class Cessna to replace the 20-year-old aircraft the state presently has.
The Legislature had last year approved the budgetary provision for purchasing the new plane, but the administration took almost a year to identify a suitable model.
State Aviation Secretary Sanjay Ubale presented the proposal before the Cabinet and explained why the nine-seater Cessna was better and faster than other models. Ubale could not be reached for comment.
A top official in the Chief Minister’s Office said on condition of anonymity that the old aircraft was proving to be an embarrassment for state dignitaries. “The old aircraft is grounded most of the time. When it is airworthy, it takes almost two-and-a-half hours to get to Nagpur from Mumbai. Other planes cover the distance in an hour,” said the official. “Hence the need to buy a new plane.”
Over the last few years, Deshmukh, Patil and the Governor — SC Jamir is presently acting Governor after the resignation of SM Krishna — have been using domestic airlines for official tours. The state has full-time pilots for bigger planes and helicopters.